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World Owl Trust - leading the World in Owl Conservation

Text Version Last Updated: January 5, 2014 17:35

Thursday 18th December, 2014

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Wulf’s Blog


Wednesday 17th July 2013

We have now reached the stage in the breeding season when we find birds which have had a second clutch of eggs. We had to pull a lone Chaco Owlet. The Chaco Owls had a second clutch. We have a problem with Chaco Owls, which I have mentioned in previous blogs, but for the ‘uninitiated’, here’s the reason why; around the centre we have many biting insects. Some of the many are the Hippoboscids, the Louse Fly or Flat Fly, which is a specialist bird parasite. These flies are shaped in such a way that makes it easy for them to ‘scuttle’ through a bird’s under story of feathers, and there suck their blood. They can be the vector for a blood born infection which in many ways is similar to Avian Malaria. This infection is an organism known as a ‘protozoa’ which goes by the name of Haemoproteus, and which can cause anaemia in young birds of certain species, but which is harmless to adult birds. The Chaco Owls are one of those species affected by this, and the anaemia depresses the immune system of the Chaco Owl’s young. This then makes it likely that they will succumb to secondary infections, which always seem to prove fatal. The only way round this, is to pull the owlets from the nest, and rear them in isolation, away from the ‘reach’ of Flat Flies. Once the owlets have fledged, these parasites appear to cease being a problem. This is quite easy to carry out at the start of the breeding season, as the Flat Fly doesn’t really start to be active until around the end of May/beginning of June. There may however be a bit of a problem at this time of year, as, in the case of the Chaco Owls, they laid their second clutch during the active period of the Flat Fly, and, even though we have pulled the owlet, it is quite likely it has already been exposed to the Flat Fly’s unwelcome attentions. We shall have to wait and see. These things are never straight forward.

See you next week


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